About Olympic Windsurfing
Windsurfers are the fastest monohull sailing crafts in the world today. It is believed that
there are more windsurfers worldwide today than all other sailboats combined, and their
popularity continues to grow. This is due to the craft’s small size, low cost, portability
and the excitement of “flying” over the water as if there were no craft below.
Windsurfers are great athletes, navigators, and sailors. Physically, the best windsurfing
sailors are tall, lean and extremely fit. Yet, it is common to see a 105-lb. woman
complete a race in the same time as a 160-lb. man, thereby proving that balance
and sensitivity to the windsurfer are equally critical.
Windsurfing made its Olympic debut in 1984 (Los Angeles). Races are run on the same
“trapezoid” and “Windward-Leeward” courses as all other sailing classes, which
incorporate upwind, reaching and downwind legs. A typical day of competition consists
of 2-3 races, each lasting around 45 minutes. The Olympic Regatta will consist of 16
races over 9 days (including two rest days).
The Physical Element
Windsurfing is a very physical sport and was made even more so when unlimited
“pumping” was allowed after the 1992 Olympics. Pumping the sail creates artificial
wind and can greatly increase the sailors speed. Sailors pump as often as they can
throughout the race to have the highest speed possible. Pumping is extremely taxing
on the body and requires both power and endurance. Studies have shown that Olympic
Windsurfers are as fit as elite rowers and cross country skiers. To be competitive sailors
must be in top physical condition. However, windsurfing is still a finesse sport and also
requires good starts, boatspeed and tactics for success.
The RS:X One-Design Equipment
The RS:X was chosen as the Olympic board in 2004 and will represent its first Olympic
Games in Beijing, 2008. The RS:X can be raced in winds of 3 to 30 knots. The board
begins to “plane” in winds of 8 knots of wind and can reach speeds over 30 knots.
When planning, theboard lifts out of the water like a water ski and dramatically
increases speed. RS:X is a One Design Class with all the equipment supplied by
NeilPryde and each piece manufactured to a standard specification. This levels the
playing field by minimizing the “gear factor” and ensures that the best sailor, not
equipment, will win.